My recent trip started on Marco Island, Florida. Traveling to Marco is relatively easy – I even fished an afternoon session on my arrival day. To get there I flew into Ft Myers, Florida picked up a rental car and drove 1 ½ hours to Marco Island. Anglers can also fly into Naples, Florida. Once on Marco Island I met my guides Kyle Giampoli and Wright Taylor. They along with their partner, Al Keller are some of the only fly fishing guides in this region.Kyle, Wright, and Al are the real deal. They live to fish and spend all their time on the water or tying flies. Each with their own personality, these guys are experienced, knowledgeable, and dedicated to finding fish. Their home water consists of the little pressured region of the 10,000 Islands and Everglades National Park where they enjoy year round fishing for snook, redfish, baby tarpon, and my personal favorite, big tarpon! The larger 50lb to 80lb tarpon are present mid-March through July, and the huge 100lb-200lb migratory tarpon pass by during a short window in late September.One of their favorite times is late fall. After the tropical storms pass, the offshore waters begin to cool while the backcountry waters remain warm. The baitfish are abundant and the redfishing really gets going with plenty of fish in the 6-7lb as well as a few big fish in the 15-16lb range. In late September migratory tarpon in the 100-220lb range, pass by seeking cooler water near the creeks to stay away from the sharks.
In my time with Kyle and Wright we saw hardly any other anglers amongst an immense amount of great water. We found tarpon rolling in the mangroves and snook crashing baitfish. We also had some great sight fishing for snook up to 30 inches over hard white sand flats.
The Marco Island program is a great venue for anglers interested in three to five days of serious no-frills fishing. For anglers fond of simple hotel based accommodations, uncrowded waters, straightforward travel logistics, and skilled motivated guides, this is the trip!
My next stop was Key West and Bahia Honda Sporting Club. Bahia is quite possibly the ultimate lodging / fishing experience in Florida. Owner Gordon Baggett has gathered a top notch guide team and matched them with an exquisite private home on sixteen private acres located just minutes from some of the best tarpon fishing in the world.
To get there I took the short flight from Ft. Myers to Key West where I was met by Doug Mayer, my guide for the next few days our of Bahia Honda Sporting Club. On this portion my trip I was joined by my dear fishing friend, Jerry. Once Doug loaded our equipment into his truck he poured us cold Pina Coladas which we enjoyed on the short drive to the lodge. This was Jerry’s first tarpon trip ever and he managed to hook /jump three fish and land one. One encounter that neither of us will ever forget started with a perfect lead and a super visual/violent take less than 30 feet from the boat!
I have to say Jerry is one of the luckiest fly fishermen I have ever met. It seemed that every time he had a rod in his hand the fish would come to our boat. One time he just stood up and said, “ There’s one” in his charming southern accent , plopped his fly out, stripped and wiggled his fly twice and the fish ate it. Jerry actually is an accomplished angler and though he made it look easy at times, we had our struggles.
Two of the days I was in high heaven with wads of fish rolling and daisy chaining all around me. Though my ability to consistently feed these fish was limited, I did manage to feed a few and fought my personal best on my last cast of the trip. I even missed my flight home due to fighting this beautiful beast. She took me on and off a flat, through a deep aqua blue channel, and ultimately broke me off due to reel failure.
Tarpon fishing in the Keys is not for everyone. You must be ready to hunt fish, face strong winds and take what nature throws your way. The stronger the caster, the better your chances are. Leading a moving fish with a 15 mph crosswind or hitting a laid up tarpon on the nose is anything but easy! I recommend allotting at least four days to such a trip taking into account that longer stays increase your chances of hitting the weather right. Most of the boat runs are from 5 minutes to about an hour. Some spots can be pretty choppy so be sure and let your captain know if you have any back issues.
The lodge itself is an exquisite private home which sits on 16 acres and within eye shot of some very productive waters. The rooms are tasteful and spacious and can accommodate up to eight anglers for a week. The private swimming pool, Italian marble floors, and vaulted ceilings make this Mediterranean style villa the nicest saltwater accommodations I have ever visited.
Staying at the Bahia Honda Sporting Club is really a fantastic overall experience. Not only were the guides qualified but the staff at Bahia Honda went above and beyond. Mike, our chef, served us fresh local masterpieces including stone crabs, frog legs, and crab cakes. His passion for food added greatly to our experience. Angie, our hostess, brought a special sweetness to the scene and was more than accommodating to each of the guests. They were a great team.
We are working on securing dates at the lodge for our Fly Water Travel clients. Space is extremely limited so let us know as soon as possible if you are interested in next season.